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Suffering, should I be seeking it?

While scripture does teach about a baptism of suffering (Matthew 20:22-23, Mar 10:38-40 and Luke 12:5), nowhere in scripture are we asked or expected to seek suffering of any type. What we do know however is that as believers, suffering will indeed be part of our experience, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 i.e., those that desire to live Godly.

Now persecution has come through the ages at different times and in different forms to all believers. For some, it has been severe (read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) but for many of us it has been as only comparatively mild jibes and discomforts. The issue however is, do I have a desire to serve God regardless of the outcome? The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrates this well (Daniel 3:16-23). The truth be told, it is only when the trial actually presents itself that I will know if I will stand victorious. So, it is in this context that Paul, in Philippians 3, starts off by saying that in and of himself he has nothing that can do to secure his salvation and because of this he wishes to be drawing as close as possible to Christ who is his only means of salvation. What he is saying that it is only in death that one can know His resurrection and that this is only possible if we can identify (fellowship) with his Lord’s sufferings.

Fellowship is a very intimate word: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse (click link for more details).

While we are not asked to seek suffering, we are encouraged to rejoice or be encouraged by our sufferings:

  • Matthew 5:10-12
  • Romans 5:1-21
  • Colossians 1:24
  • James 1:2-4
  • James 1:12
  • 1 Peter 1:61
  • 1 Peter 2:20
  • 1 Peter 5:10
  • Revelation 2:10
  • Etc

A quick glance at Philippians 3:10 might appear to indicate that Paul was seeking suffering I do not believe that this is the case. If it were, he would not have tried to defend himself as often as he did, once even drawing on Roman law to avoid further beatings and prison (Acts 16:37). Instead, Philippians 3 simply reinforces that:

  1. Compared to knowing and being with Christ NOTHING else comes close in importance or value.
  2. ANYTHING coming between me and Christ needs to be disposed of.
  3. Suffering for Him, when it comes will only serve to confirm the victory and power of His resurrection in our lives, or as 2 Corinthians 4:17 puts it, will work out “for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.
  4. We will only overcome if we are one with Christ, identifying with what He went through for us at Calvary.

So, in short, while I have no pleasure in my trials (and here I refer to those things that come against us because we love and serve our Lord), they will come my way. I, therefore, do not need to seek them. However, having said this, the way that I react to and navigate them will reveal the depth of the fellowship that I have with our Lord. On a side note, we are not saved by our stipes but His (Isaiah 53:5).

“Oh Lord, may the trials that come my way only seek to draw me closer to you as I remember what you went through for me, and the world, at Calvary. Further may these trials serve to remind and encourage me that your You rose victorious and that soon I too will be able to rest eternally with You in that victory”.